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Medical certification of cause of death

The decedent

The deaths of infants and of older people are the most difficult to certify correctly. As people age, they often suffer from several diseases at the same time, which makes it difficult to ascertain the single UCOD. If reliable medical records and laboratory findings are not available, assigning the correct COD may require significant individual judgement. Sometimes, the deaths of people above a certain age are considered to be ‘natural’, and assigned a ‘not known’ cause. This is not the correct practice according to the ICD and should not be followed by certifiers.

Lu TH et al (2001). Factors associated with errors in death certificate completion. A national study in Taiwan. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology..

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